Sunshine, citrus and spice

The briefest rays of sunshine can swiftly brighten up a grey and dreary Saturday morning.
This pot of hydrangeas caught that brief magical ray before the rain took over the rest of the weekend.

Hydrangeas in the sun

In the absence of sunshine and warmth, comfort food has to work harder to prove its worth.

We discovered these wonderful cookie twists during a visit to a friend a few months ago. They are called Koulourakia Portakaliou or to put it simply for the rest of us – Citrus and Spice cookies.

Making these cookies also fills the kitchen with fragrant smells of orange and cinnamon- an instant mood uplifter.

This recipe is a twist on a traditional Greek cookie recipe. A quick trawl through the internet throws up many versions of this classic. I chose the citrus and spice variation. The recipe I found is reproduced below.

Koulourakia Portakaliou

• 7 1/2 ounces of olive oil
• 3 1/2 ounces of sunflower oil (or other seed oil)
• 7/8 cup of sugar
• grated peel of 1 clementine (or tangerine)
• 8 cups of all purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon of baking soda
• 1 teaspoon of baking powder
• 4 1/2 ounces of freshly squeezed orange juice (strained)
• 4 1/2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1/3 cup of cognac
• 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
• 1/4 teaspoon of salt

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the olive oil, sunflower oil, sugar, and grated peel, and add all remaining ingredients except the flour mixture. Combine well.
Add the flour slowly, mixing with pastry hooks or by hand to make the dough. The dough is ready when it pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl or when it no longer sticks to the hands.
Preheat oven to 340°F (170°C).
Take small pieces of dough, roll by hand into ropes and form into shapes: spirals, figure eights, pretzel shapes, etc.
Place on ungreased cookie sheets leaving space between, and bake at 340°F (170°C) for 35-45 minutes, until lightly browned. Test for doneness. Cookies should be lightly browned and wonderfully crumbly all the way through.
Cool on racks.
Note: These twists can be made with thin ropes, to create smaller cookies, or wider, to create bigger cookies.
When thoroughly cooled, store in cookie tins or glass containers with tightly-fitting lids, or freeze in plastic bags.

Traditional cookies

Apparently the traditional shapes for these cookies are twists as pictured above, or as pretzels. I stayed faithful to these for the first batch.
Lovely eaten warm with a black coffee.

This olive oil version, I’m reliably informed, keeps for months.
If you’ve paid attention to the quantities in the list of ingredients, this lot can also feed a small army. I would seriously recommend halving the ingredients for a first attempt.

But having followed the recipe diligently, I had a mini mountain of dough to bake. And I can assure you making those twists and pretzels can keep you busy for most of the weekend. Unless you decide to take a short cut – as I did for the next lots. I used a cookie mould to make batches of these mini versions.

Sandwiched together with orange curd, they taste divine. A great substitute for dessert or as decadent tea time treats. And if, like me you don’t really drink tea, there’s nothing to stop you from popping one in each time you pass the kitchen.

Orange curd sandwich cookies

Bon appetit or, as they say in Greek – ‘Kali orexi’.

About The Weekend Baker

Weekend baker, cook book collector, gatherer of family recipes.
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